Alejo Muniz arrived at surfing’s main stage during a transitional period. The 21-year-old World Tour rookie surfs with a flair and style that—beating around the bush aside—would have been unexpected to see from a Brazilian in the past. But these times, they are a-changin’. In recent years the Brazilian surf scene has taken on a new complexion, and Alejo is looking to further the progress made by fellow countrymen Adriano de Souza and Jadson Andre by taking down big names on the World Tour. Although he was unable to lock in stellar results at Bells, Alejo has already made a statement by making it to the quarterfinals in his first tour event at Snapper, beating Owen Wright, Joel Parkinson, and Taj Burrow in the process. Between warm-up sessions for the upcoming Lowers Pro, the young Brazilian stopped by the office to talk about his rookie year thus far.
So you came out with guns blazing and went all the way to the Quarters at Snapper. Did you expect to get such a strong result off the bat?
No, I wasn’t expecting that at all because that was my first World Tour event. But, actually, I knew that I had a really good board under my feet. It was the same board that I rode in Fernando [de Noronha], and I was coming off a first place in that event, so I was feeling good. But I wasn’t expecting that, you know? I’ve dreamed about being on the World Tour and surfing against those guys, so I was really putting pressure on myself. In my first heat I couldn’t even stand up! I was just falling on every wave, paddling around and freaking out. But I had my coach with me on the beach, and he helped me out a lot.
Tell me about your quarterfinal against Jordy Smith at Snapper. Was losing that heat a bit of a learning experience?
I was actually a lot more confident in that heat, because in the heat before I surfed against Joel and Taj and I won that heat. I have no Idea how I did, but I won. I was feeling really good that day, and I almost had that heat against Jordy. When I came out of the water I was so pissed off, because I was holding priority and I let him go on that last wave at the last second. But I think it’s great for me to surf against guys like Jordy. He was second last year, and surfing against Joel and Taj and those guys also pushes my surfing a lot more. I don’t know, I feel like I had that heat with Jordy in my hands and I just missed it. But I learned a lot from that heat for sure.
Knowing that you were going to be surfing against the toughest competitors in the world, what did you do to prepare for your rookie year?
I went to the gym a lot after Hawaii. I started to working out, and I went on a trip where I actually got to surf the sickest rights by myself. It was in Africa, and I think it was the first time anyone has shot that wave. I was there for eight days, and I surfed for five of them for like eight hours everyday, so it was pretty cool. I brought a lot of boards on that trip, and I was just trying different boards and different fins. That’s pretty much been my training for the first half of the year.
What are the waves like back home in Brazil, and how do you think they’ve shaped your surfing?
Where I’m from in Brazil is a very, very small place called Bombinhas. It’s about an hour from Florianópolis, and it’s very small, but with a lot of different beaches. So I have two pointbreaks, which aren’t long, perfect waves, but when they’re breaking they can get good. But I don’t think there are very many good waves at home that really shaped my surfing. That’s probably the main reason why I think Brazil doesn’t have a world champ yet. Because when you’re from Brazil, you don’t have huge barrels, you don’t surf reefbreaks, and there aren’t many pointbreaks, so it takes a long time to progress. But I was lucky to have sponsors that would send me to places. I’ve been traveling a lot since I was like, 14, and I didn’t even spend much time at home, actually. I was always just trying to improve.
The styles of Brazilian surfers used to carry a bit of a stigma, but it seems like the newest crop of kids out of Brazil are much more refined. Do you think that there is a transition happening in Brazilian surfing?
I think it’s all an evolution of the sport, because surfing in Brazil is not that old, like surfing in the US, or Australia. I think it’s getting more professional, and we have more opportunities than the older guys like Neco [Padaratz], and a lot of other surfers from Brazil. We could travel since we were young, we learned English when we were young, and we probably had access to better boards. I think it’s a transition and an evolution. Right now in Brazil there are like a thousand 14-year-old kids that are ripping, just surfing amazing—maybe even better than Adriano, or Gabriel [Medina], or Miguel [Pupo], or Jadson when they were that age. These new kids travel a lot more and they have more people to look up to that inspire them. I think we’re getting better, hopefully.